Christian Welcoming Practice

Pepe ·, modified 5 Months ago at 4/3/23 4:13 PM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/3/23 4:13 PM

Christian Welcoming Practice

Posts: 685 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
So, you interested in sharing some stuff to a friend, but she/he wouldn’t be willing to open up if it’s not deep-rooted in a Christian context. Cynthia Bourgeault’s “The Wisdom Jesus” may be a good choice for your friend. The best book I've found so far pointing out Jesus' non-dual teachings. Below, a trimmed version of the Welcoming Practice.


[This practice is meant both for on-cushion and off-cushion.] Is a three-step process of acknowledging what is going on internally during a distressing physical or emotional situation, “welcoming” it, and letting it go. 

It was developed during the late 1980s by some of Thomas Keating’s closest associates. It has been taught and practiced within the Centering Prayer movement, and it has been known by a variety of names: “Open Mind, Open Heart Practice,” “The Welcoming Practice,” and currently “The Welcoming Prayer.” 


As a preliminary exercise, close your eyes and picture yourself in a situation of real stress. Can you feel yourself inwardly tightening and bracing? Stay with that sensation for a minute or two, exploring how it actually feels in your body. Then, consciously move in the opposite direction, still working directly with sensation. Un-brace, take a deep breath, and come down into your being. Soften inwardly. Open to the sensation of your own presence, and try to stay with that presence no matter what racket is going on in your mind. Keep returning consciously to that sensation of inner openness until you can feel a calmness beginning to return. 

With this exercise you get a clear inner benchmark of the difference between working with an attitude and working with sensation. To work with this situation as an attitude might mean to psychoanalyze yourself (“Why am I feeling so afraid?”), or to try to talk yourself out of your fear, or maybe even to say, “I let go of this fear and give it to Jesus.” These are all ways of engaging the situation mentally. To work with sensation means to focus on the actual energy patterns the feelings and attitudes create in your body. Real kenotic work is done here. At the sensation level the issue is simply this: in any life situation, confronted by an outer threat or opportunity, you have a choice between two options. You can either harden and brace defensively, or you can yield and soften internally. The first response will plunge you immediately into your small self, with its animal instincts and survival responses. The second will allow you to stay aligned with your heart, where the odds of a creative outcome are infinitely better.


That state of spacious heart openness is known in spiritual tradition as surrender. Not what you usually think about when you hear the word “surrender,” is it? We usually equate the word with capitulation and consider it a sign of weakness. But surrender —spiritually understood— has nothing to do with outer capitulation, with rolling over and playing dead. It has to do with keeping the right alignment inwardly that allows you stay in the flow of your deeper sustaining wisdom. In that state of openness you then decide what you’re going to do about the outer situation. Whatever you do, whether you consent or vigorously resist, your actions will be clear.

“Remain firm and do not bend” is the essence of surrender: exactly the opposite of how we usually use the term. Surrender as a spiritual act requires “remaining firm”—but along the vertical axis of one’s being, aligned with that deep heart-knowingness— rather than simply allowing oneself to be carried along in a stream of reactivity at the horizontal level. 

The Welcoming Practice

Within the Centering Prayer network the Welcoming Prayer is used mainly as an “attitude adjustment”: a way of acknowledging God’s presence in the midst of a distressing physical or emotional situation. But within a wisdom context, the wider possibilities of its ingenious methodology become apparent. 

Welcoming is intrinsically an energetic practice, geared to work at the level of sensation, in order to actively imprint kenotic surrender as the innate first response to all life situations. Through its deliberate training in inner softening and opening, the practice begins to lay down new neural pathways in support of that deeper compassionate flow (call it your own higher intelligence or call it the Divine Mercy; perhaps they are not so different). Kenosis is experienced in (and through) the act of bringing oneself into a state of unconditional presence. In this more spacious spiritual state, the energy of being which might otherwise have been squandered in useless identified emotional reaction is recaptured and placed directly in the service of spiritual transformation.

The practice can be used both for emotional and physical upset. It can also be used on the other end of the pain-pleasure spectrum. Normally you begin with pain; it’s easier to spot initially and you have more motivation to work with it. The time to practice is as close as possible to the actual moment of the upset. Whether the situation is physical or emotional, the same three steps apply:  (1) Focus or sink in; (2) Welcome; (3) Let go.

1. Focus

To focus means to become physically aware of what’s going on as sensation in your body. Whether it’s physical pain or an emotion such as fear or anger, it will be expressed in the form of sensation. Pay attention to that. Don’t try to change anything. Just stay present. (In that preliminary exercise we were deliberately trying to relax inner tightness, but only to get you used to working directly with sensation; it’s not a part of the actual welcoming practice methodology.)

Do not use this occasion to analyze or justify yourself. Energetically, it’s like pouring gasoline on a fire; the emotions will only flame higher. That’s because self-analysis locks you back into your egoic operating system with its constant stream of stories. The opportunity here is to go beyond that, into your larger self.

Taking time with this first step is important for a couple of reasons. First, being consciously present to your body guarantees that you won’t repress the emotion or dissociate from it (two perennial occupational hazards of the spiritual path). Second, it forces you to stay with sensation, which is where the work is going on anyway. 

2. Welcome

This next step feels decidedly counterintuitive. Anchored there in the midst of all your upset, you begin to say, softly and gently, “Welcome, anger,” or “Welcome fear,” or “Welcome pain.”

Why would you want to do a crazy thing like that? Isn’t the point of this practice to get rid of that troublesome emotion or physical affliction? No. The point is to not let it throw you out of presence. And the way —the only way—to do that is to wrap your deeper self around it through the power of your compassionate attention. When you beam the power of your compassionate attention on the emotion or physical afflictions, they finally dissolve.

I recommend naming them lightly, a point on which I am in some disagreement with the prevailing teaching in the Centering Prayer movement, which recommends only saying “welcome.” But I have found that people will supply an object anyway, and nine times out of ten it will be the wrong object. “But incest is a hard thing to welcome, isn’t it?” one woman asked me, unaware that what was on her plate in that moment was not incest but anger. Given the long and dangerous history in Christian spiritual practice of equating inner surrender with outer capitulation, it is important to keep reinforcing the point here. What you are welcoming is never an outer situation, only the feelings and sensations working within you in the moment. Once we have endured and integrated what is on our plate internally, then what we do with the outer situation is for us to decide. Surrender means doing something out of the power of integrity, not knuckling under to coercion or abuse.

3. Let Go

The most important point about this third step is not to get to it too quickly. The work is really done in the first two steps, and this last one should be embraced only when you sense that the energy bound up in the upset is beginning to wane on its own. Then and only then you can use it like a coda in music: a final farewell when the movement has come to completion.

Remember that letting go, too, is only for this moment. It is not a blanket vow never to be angry again, only a release of the anger in the present moment. Anger will almost certainly be back. But each time you are able to pass it through the light-beam of your compassionate attention, it loses more and more of its hold on your being.

When you do let go, there are two ways of going about it. The simplest is merely to say, “I let go of this anger” (or fear or pain), using the same word with which you named it before. But Mary Mrozowski —the actual founder of the method— preferred an unvarying litany:

"I let go my desire for security and survival.
I let go my desire for esteem and affection.
I let go my desire for power and control.
I let go my desire to change the situation".

Our core woundings in the first three lines, together with our misguided search for compensation, drive most of the unconscious behavior which is the source of our continuing human suffering. Mary liked to say, “I’m sending a strong message to the unconscious.” The fourth line in this litany completely eliminates all doubt that one is “using” this practice to “fix” an undesirable situation. The goal is simply to stay present, at this deeper level “for the duration.” Every moment of conscious presence actually takes place in eternity.

Those steeped in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory might shudder at the foregoing litany. How can one expect a person to entertain the notion of relinquishing these basic physical requirements? But wisdom practice has always known the deeper secret. It is not about giving up things we want or rolling over and playing dead. It is about connecting with an energy of sustenance so powerful and vibrant as it flows through our being from the infinite that all else pales in comparison. It not only flows through our being; it is our being.

The core secret we are coming to understand is that the act of letting go is the power by which Jesus could live and remain true to his path. It is the power through which he healed, the power through which he forgave, and the power through which he meets us now. Nor is it only his power, because that same power is hardwired into our own hearts and souls, and in that moment of complete surrender an explosion of presence goes off within us that is simultaneously an encounter with the wisdom master himself. 
Rousseau Matt, modified 5 Months ago at 4/3/23 6:09 PM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/3/23 6:06 PM

RE: Christian Welcoming Practice

Posts: 136 Join Date: 5/1/22 Recent Posts
I like Thomas keatings take on things.  But trust me he is controversial  within the Catholic  Church and Christianity  in general. He has been accused  of infusing new  age . The church  hierarchy accepts him though
Nihila , modified 5 Months ago at 4/4/23 7:58 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/4/23 7:58 AM

RE: Christian Welcoming Practice

Posts: 137 Join Date: 1/19/23 Recent Posts
Anthony de Mello I like very much. I haven't watched or read much, but his name has stuck with me. Certainly not very typical christian, but a priest and a mystic nontheless.
Pepe ·, modified 5 Months ago at 4/4/23 10:21 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 4/4/23 10:21 AM

RE: Christian Welcoming Practice

Posts: 685 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Yeah, I've forgotten Anthony de Mello! There are videos in Youtube, in particular Wake Up To Life - Full Talk (1986)  and a text "Awareness" (amazon) with his talks edited.